Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Waiting for the next blizzard

By Don Klein

Being stuck at home because of a snow storm is great for kids. There is sledding and snowball fights and for those with skill, ice skating. There is also a healthy resurgence of family comity in at-home activities. Most of all it means no school for them. I never realized until recently that being snowbound is good for grandparents as well.

In my younger days I always liked the concept of snow. It was God’s way of purifying the land with a pristine coat of cool, soothing, white fluff, much as intensive rain sweeps away all the muck of everyday life. Snow just covers it. But just below the line of consciousness in those days I secretly dreaded snow when it pounced onto my life in substantial quantities.

To me it meant shoveling what seems to be tons of the white stuff from the driveway and front walk. It meant power failures and the breakdown in normal public services and cancellations of many civic activities plus horrendous trips to and from my job. Snow storms are eclectic, a balance of fun, frenzy and frustration.

Not anymore. In retirement without little ones under foot, being snowbound is a cherished period of relief. I noticed that for the first time last weekend.
In the days when we had young children at home my wife, Joyce, would bake loads of chocolate chip cookies and make what always appeared to be gallons of hot cocoa. Once the walk was shoveled many of the neighborhood kids would come tapping on the front door for handouts. They knew where the freshly baked cookies were concentrated.

To this day, our daughters now mothers themselves, bake chocolate chip cookies when they are shut-in by winter storms. The acorn never falls far from the oak.

With this most recent storm, her culinary juices aroused by the sight of snow pelting at the sides of the house, Joyce asked me "Would you like me to bake brownies?" My lack of responsive enthusiasm was driven by the fact that before the storm I had wisely purchased a fudge cake and a box of chocolate covered doughnuts (don’t mention it to my doctor) for nutritional fortification during the upcoming weather-driven confinement.

Not being deterred by my negative reaction, she said the magical words, "How about I make a pot full of knadels." Ah, knadels. An image from my past. The Passover delicacy my wife learned to make from my mother. Mom made great knadels but Joyce has outdone her, ameliorating her cooking with each passing year.

There are few foods I can think of that I can resist – French onion soup, beef Wellington, grilled Alaskan salmon, Rainbow trout, chicken l’orange, beef tartare – but none more than knadels. It makes me salivate.

For those who are unfamiliar with knadels accept ths definition. It is a fluffy dumpling made of matzoh meal and other magical ingredients folded into the size of a meatball, cooked for 20 minutes in unsalted boiling water which is disposed of before the little darlings are served with steaming homemade chicken soup.

The soup, as we all know, is a cure all for ailments. Homemade chicken soup is miraculous. Legend has it that it makes stutterers speak like Laurence Olivier, transforms klutzes into Fred Astaires, and would do wonders in making chatty Sarah Palin as erudite as Adlai Stevenson if ever she deigned to taste it.

Despite all the positives that exist in chicken soup, it is the knadels, or matzoh balls as some people call it, that deserve all the praise. Just imagine. A cold night, the wind whistling outside, the snow pelting at your front door, and you are presented with a bowl full of steaming homemade chicken soup with a half dozen knadels floating in it. You brain turns celestial. You hear bells.

But that is not the only reason for me to glory in being snowbound. All during the day as Mother Nature unleashed her fury on us, I had the pleasure of finishing a great book, "My Paper Chase" by Harold Evans, all about newspaper work in Britain and the US. Then I picked up once again a novel I had interrupted to read the Evans book, called, "The Russian Concubine" by Kate Furnivall.

This is a beautifully written piece of fiction about western expatriates in China prior to World War II. Then there were the moments spent with eyes closed listening to recordings on my CD player of Mozart, Strauss, Copland and Beethoven. What else does man need? Thankfully there was no place to go, nothing to do since all meetings and scheduled dinners were cancelled.

Fortunately a bunch of young guys with a sister, showed up and shoveled out our driveway so if we had to go somewhere we could, but didn’t because there was no place to park the car once we got there. That meant another day of involuntary detention.

It was great to stay home and do nothing, except read great new books, listen to fabulous old music and to close out the day with a dinner which included the eternal knadels and homemade chicken soup. Ah, Nirvana right here on earth.

I’ll try to slip in days like this again when the weather is less contrary, but I know it won’t work. The pull of life’s routines are irrevocable. I’ll just wait for the next blizzard and hope for the best.